Does it matter if the leader is male or female?

In today’s Sunday Times Harriet Harman is interviewed about her views on politics and the role men and women should play in running the country:

Harman feels strongly that voters are fed up with “boys running the show” and is convinced that every big organisation needs women at the top.

“Men cannot be left to run things on their own,” she explains. “I think it’s a thoroughly bad thing to have a men-only leadership. In a country where women regard themselves as equal, they are not prepared to see men just running the show themselves. I think a balanced team of men and women makes better decisions.”

Times Interview

In 2005 Caliper, an American based management consultancy, and Aurora, a UK based organisation, conducted a year long study to identify characteristics of female leaders that distinguished them from their male counterparts in terms of leadership qualities.

The findings broke down into 4 basic areas:

1) Women leaders are more persuasive than their male counterparts.
2) When feeling the sting of rejection, women leaders learn from adversity and carry on with an “I’ll show you” attitude.
3) Women leaders demonstrate an inclusive, team-building leadership style of problem solving and decision making.
4) Women leaders are more likely to ignore rules and take risks.

I hate sweeping generalisations that dictate that “all men are….” and all women are…”, and I’m not sure the above findings hold true for women and not men, but in my experience the women I have worked for in the past have been better managers than the vast majority of the guys I have worked for.

I think what is important is the ability to develop an effective working relationship with your direct reports. Is that easier for women rather than men?

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